• 61°

Ex-gang members to help fight violence

During Tuesday’s town hall meeting “Turning the Tide on Youth Violence” New Selmont Baptist Church pastor David Perry announced a plan to help educate Selma’s youth through his own experience.

Perry, an ex-gang member who served time in prison, will gather 100 other ex-inmates and former gang members at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 1 at 1 p.m. and sweep through area schools addressing young people on the dangers of turning to a life of crime.

Many young people are lost to gangs, Perry said, because there is simply nothing else for them to do. Perry suggested youth work programs through citywide initiatives to teach young people new skills.

Gangs, Perry said, are not going to go away and through drug trafficking and organized crime, they will only get stronger.

“It’s time for us to get our head out of the sand,” he said. “We have to compete with gang money to stop gang violence. We can’t fix it without the proper resources for our police departments.”

When he was a gang member, Perry said there was no shortage of cash flow. Gangs, he said, are multi-million dollar industries that will secure its financial backing by any means necessary.

“Behind every murder is a dollar sign,” he said. “Selma has a major dope vein running through. All the way down to Minter we have people being recruited. We have to address it because no place is immune to what is going to happen.”

Law enforcement officers and elected officials can’t fight the battle against gangs and youth violence alone, Selma city councilwoman Angela Benjamin said. It will take a complete effort.

“This has to be a situation where a community comes together and solves its own problems,” she said. “Those are the kinds of people that need to be at our tables for the meetings. We need every day people who are willing to step up.”

More and more law enforcement agencies are being brought in to help keep the streets of Selma and Dallas County safe, District Attorney Michael Jackson said.

“There is a lot of coordination going on between the police department, drug task force, federal agents and a whole lot of other people to make sure we get a handle on crime,” Jackson said.

Perry said increased patrols are needed in addition to the help that is already arriving. Gangs are growing, he said, and more officers will be needed in the future to fight back. If a one-cent sales tax is what it takes to recruit more officers, Perry said the community should vote yes.

“If the police department buys a gun the gangs buy another one,” Perry said. “But we want them to get into the street and protect our communities and then we get mad when they want a raise. They are worth more than one-cent to us.”